Picking up where I left off last week on Washed in the Blood. This snippet takes us up to pretty where I am at this point. Things are going to take a bad turn here, but I just haven’t written it yet.
Copyrighted, full of stupid mistakes, etc. Watch your step.
Bob Sperling sat at his desk and held his life in his hands. Thirty-two years of marriage, three kids—the youngest, Jason, was a Junior at UGA this year, pre-med, 3.9 GPA—thirty-five years in law enforcement, the last ten as Night Shift Supervisor. Fifty-two years of life, a good life, and the photographs in his hand, eleven of them, would end it all, ruin him. Eleven tarot cards, each and every one of them the Death card.
He remembered the first time he saw Maggie. She and John were new in town. They made a striking couple as they entered the First Christian Church in downtown Oak Hill. He was tall, distinguished, a face hard as shale, with flat planes. His pale blue eyes saw right to the heart of things. And people.
Maggie was six months pregnant. She carried the baby well and had the indefinable glow that so many pregnant women wear. Her rich auburn hair flowed in waves over her shoulders, and she stood tall and straight as a fir tree.
Bob had loved her from that first moment, and had conspired to sit close to her in church, to run into her in the Piggly Wiggly, to drive by her house on patrol.
Maggie had welcomed his attention. She welcomed all who would be friends. She was just that kind of person. It had no taken long for him to make arrangements to cut John and Maggie’s grass when he was away on his extended trips.
Then came the day. THE day. Deborah was being kept by Maggie’s friend Martha. When Bob showed up to do the mowing, Maggie was wearing a two-piece bathing suit that was at least two sizes too small. Beb remembered thinking it was probably illegal in Georgia. Her full breasts hung out the sides, her round butt was covered by only a token of cloth.
While Maggie knelt and weeded in the garden, Bob attempted to mow. He kept looking over at that glorious butt and going off course. One of those times, he ran right over an apple tree the Edwards had just planted. When the tree twanged off the mower, Maggie looked up, grinned, and wiggled her rear end.
Bob had hurried through the rest of the yard. Far from his best effort. When Maggie invited him in for a glass of tea, he had wound up having Maggie on the living room floor. Two helpings. He still could not go into their house without seeing the stain that was not there.
From that day forward, theirs had been an unspoken affair. Purely sexual, though. They loved each other, of course, and Bob loved John just as Bonny loved Maggie. There was no question of divorce or any such foolishness, just pure animal need and release. Just plain fun.
Your sins will find you out, though, and now Bob held eleven photographs of two people having sex in Maggie Edwards’s bed. One of them was unmistakably Maggie Edwards, and she was unmistakably having a great time. The other was unmistakably not John Edwards. It was Bob Sperling, the investigator now saddled with looking into his lover’s death and mutilation.
He wanted to know who took these pictures. They looked like stills from a bad video, and the angle was obvious. One more avenue to investigate. He would have to visit the crime scene again. He really didn’t want to go back there.
A knock on his door shattered his memories into wicked shards of reality, and he dropped the photos. They fluttered like flamed-out moths onto his desk.
“Sarah Williams is out here, Bob. You better come on.” Deputy Parker’s face was white, and Bob know this was going to be bad. He stood and left his office at a fast walk. He really didn’t need any more bad tonight.
Sarah was cold–even her bones were frozen. She knew what “cold as the grave” meant. Even so, she sweated. The thin, scratchy jail blanket that Melody had wrapped her in was starting to get soaked. The pressure in her eyes threatened to pop them, and her chest was so tight, she could hardly breathe. She thought she might scream, but couldn’t enough air into her lungs.
When Inspector Sperling walked in, she began to relax. The large detective radiated calm and competence. The large, square-looking gun on his belt helped, too. She knew she was safe, now. No monster would get through this man.
He sat in the chair next to her. “Sarah?” His deep voice echoed in her stomach. “Sarah? Can you tell me what happened?”
“It—he—I—I—mon-monster-he–” She shivered, shuddered. Her throat closed.
A large, calloused hand lay gently on her shoulder, and she began to breathe again. The bass rumble came again, gentle, and comforting.
“Let’s do this the easy way. Can you say where?”
“The—the—the old m—m—mine.”
“And you were there with?”
She nodded. Tears spilled down her cheeks, and the visions would not stop. Maybe they never would.
“You said something about a monster. Can you say who or what?”
She felt the big man shift.
“Edwards? Preacher Edwards?”
She only nodded, then bent double and retched violently. A small dribble of bile ran onto the floor.
“Melody!” The detective’s voice was stern and powerful. “Get an ambulance over here now! And tell them to keep it quiet, for God’s sake! No lights or sirens!”
Sarah floated toward the floor on a cushion of angel wings and heard no more.
The night wind blew wild across Carver’s Bald, swaying the long grass in waves and swirls. John faced into the wind and spread his arms wide. His fifty-mile run had not even left him breathing hard. He wanted to hurt. He wanted to feel his lungs burn, his muscles ache with effort. He wanted to fly, to soar, to plummet to his death like Icarus at the rising of the sun. To get away. To escape himself, his present, and his future.
His thoughts scurried around his brain, frenzied mice in search of a way out of the maze, finding none. His eyes fastened on a small cemetery not far above the tree line. Rude wooden slabs and crosses and a few upright stones marked places where someone’s loved ones rested peacefully among the soil and stone.
John’s demons flitted among the stones, searching for a peace he knew was far from their grasp. Or his. Maggie. Deborah. Alyssa. Thomas. The young couple at the mine. He fell to his knees and bowed his head.
Prayerful words fled from him in panic. Curses bubbled in his throat, a superheated geyser pushing inexorably toward release. He searched his mind, delved into his soul, but grace had abandoned him. The Rock of Ages had crumbled to gravel.
He flung his head back and released his agony and his rage to the uncaring stars. His howl tore at his throat, battered his ears. He spewed his soul into the night, ripped its anchors from their grip, and let the wind take it where it would.
When at last, it was done, when its last human breath had spent itself, the beast that had once been John Edwards slumped into the grass and let the red, flaming rage and black, tarry despair that was now its only existence fill the void.
Moon and stars, wind and stone, grass and ghosts continued on their eternal ways and remembered him no more.
The chugging of the portable generator echoed through the morning silence, and the spotlights it powered cast a harsh, unreal light on the gruesome scene. Sharp edged pieces of the fleeing night hid under everything in sight. Even man’s technology could not banish the darkness completely.
Detective Sperling finished his examination of the body, rose to his feet and strode toward the command center, snapping the latex gloves from his hands.
The deputy continued to look at the body. The boy’s skin was unnaturally white, and the gaping wound in side of his neck looked like a mouth gasping its life away, or maybe roaring a defiant call for vengeance.
As Sperling approached, the deputy asked “Do you know who it–he–is?”
The detective turned chiseled granite eyes on him. “Yeah, I know him. Danny Potter. Family lives over on Tall Pines. Goes to our church. He and Sarah been dating a few months now.” Sperling heaved a big sigh. “Didn’t know they’d been hanging out up here.”
Sperling grabbed a walkie-talkie off the card table that served as their crime scene desk. He keyed the mike and spoke rapidly. “Melody. Put out an APB for John Edwards. Description: Fifty-nine. Six foot two. Hundred and eighty-five pounds. Hair mostly gray with a sprinkling of brown. Wanted for multiple murders. Considered armed and extremely dangerous. Put that out on GCIS and NCIS while you’re at it, and add ‘Be prepared to shoot to kill” to it. When you put it on the local net, you can leave off the ‘be prepared to’ part. Yeah, just ‘shoot to kill’.”
He started to put the radio back on the table, then lifted it to his mouth again. “Melody, one more thing. Get Bill Elder into my office ASAP. He should still be at the paper getting tomorrow’s edition ready. Tell him to stop everything and get over there. I want this story in tomorrow’s paper. Thanks.” This time, he did set the radio down.
The deputy looked at the stone-faced detective, who was staring off down the hillside. “Are you sure you want to do that? Put this in the paper, I mean?”
Sperling turned his head. “Why not?”
“Aren’t you afraid of panic? There’s no telling what people might do.”
“I’d rather they got the story from me than from some wild rumor. Besides, I want everybody around here to be scared. I want ’em to be scared as fuck. There’s a monster loose in these woods. Whatever John Edwards is, he sure as shit ain’t human anymore. Hell, yeah, I want ’em scared, scared enough to shoot first if he comes around.”